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A look at UNWTO call for action on tourism statistics

While over 1 billion people travelled around the world for tourism last year, only 63 million visited Africa, representing 5 percent of the world total.
Though little when compared with international arrivals from other parts of the world, the number showed a sustained growth in tourism in Africa in the past decades.
The growth, which is about 8 percent above the 2016 number of overnight visitors to Africa, is expected to continue at a rate of between 5-7 percent in 2018.

According to the UNWTO long-term outlook tourism towards 2030, the number of international arrivals is in Africa is expected to reach 134 million in 2030.
Sadly, the share in worldwide tourism does not fully reflect the huge potential of tourism on the continent.

However, there are efforts geared towards helping Africa to take advantage of  her huge tourism potential to woo the world and further develop.

Foremost of the efforts is the United Nations World Tourism Commission for Africa Meeting (UNWTO/CAF), which holds regularly across destinations in Africa.
At the 61st edition of the meeting, which held in Abuja, Nigeria, from June 4-6, 2018, about 26 ministers of tourism, representatives of national tourism administrations and other related sectors discovered that statistics is crucial for sustainable tourism development.
In one of the seminars of the meeting in Abuja entitled: “Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development”, the stakeholders called for action on the development of tourism statistics in Africa.
The meeting acknowledged that data is crucial because tourism is a transformative socio-economic sector that can contribute substantially to the diversification of national economies and the improvement of livelihoods in African region.

The Meeting stressed the need to better measure tourism with high-quality official statistical information covering all dimensions of sustainable tourism: economic, social, and environmental in order to develop the potential of tourism in Africa, better plan and manage the sector and support effective evidence-based policy decisions in line with the African Union Agenda 2063.

As well, the UNWTO/CAF Meeting recognised that beyond being a technical exercise, the development and implementation of a sound system of tourism statistics is a political and strategic endeavour, requiring wide and consistent stakeholder engagement, collaboration, inter-institutional coordination and leadership.

It also recognised that the development of tourism statistics requires the collaboration and coordination amongst all relevant national institutions (such as the National Administration, the National Statistical Office, the Central Bank, the Immigration Authority) and the private sector involved in the compilation and dissemination of tourism statistics due to the cross-cutting nature of tourism.

The summit strongly commit to implement the two official UN statistical frameworks for measuring tourism adopted in 2008: the International Recommendations for Tourism Statistics 2008, and the Tourism Satellite Account: Recommended Methodological Framework 2008.

The statistical frameworks, according to UNWTO, enable countries to produce data that is credible and comparable across countries, over time and in concert with other standards.

The Meeting reaffirmed commitment to produce appropriate and reliable data that adhere to the 10 Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, notably the use of international concepts, classifications and methods in order to promote the consistency and efficiency of our statistical systems at all official levels.

Other decisions reached at the Abuja seminar include: To unite behind the Manila Call for Action on Measuring Sustainable Tourism adopted at the 6th International Conference on Tourism Statistics, Measuring Sustainable Tourism endorsed by the UNWTO General Assembly and to advocate for the extension of tourism measurement beyond its primarily economic focus, in order to incorporate environmental, social and cultural dimensions through the development and implementation of a Statistical Framework for Measuring Sustainable Tourism.

The UNWTO/ CAF extended its gratitude to their host, the Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, for its warm welcome and outstanding organisation of the seminar, as well as, for strongly voicing that robust statistics are key to manage a sustainable tourism for development in Africa.

Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture, assured on sustained efforts at developing tourism in Nigeria, especially with the ongoing investments in infrastructure that enable tourism, visa on arrival and waivers on importation of tourism equipment.

But stakeholders think, the country and Africa as a whole need to get serious with actions to back the decisions reached at the UNWTO CAF meeting in Abuja. For them, the continent can sustain her tourism growth even from within. “If 10 percent of Africa’s over 1 billion population travel within Africa, the continent will grow. Europeans travel within to sustain their tourism. We can also learn from East Africa, especially Kenya where 78 percent of her total tourism arrivals is domestic,” Abeku Amah, a Ghanaian tourism  investor, urged whilst at the UNWTO CAF meeting in Abuja.

Beyond statistics, Ikechi Uko, a Nigerian tourism expert who is championing seamless travel within Africa, said African countries need to break all barriers, from visa to open skies, encourage continent-wide tourism and trade to exchanges, repackage or develop products that will appeal to global tourists and also policies that will encourage investments in tourism infrastructure, especially low cost airlines within Africa.

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